NOAA 2002-081
Contact: Stephanie Balian
NOAA News Releases 2002
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The Department of Commerce's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Navy and The Mariners' Museum have begun the process of recovering the USS Monitor's revolving gun turret and cannons from the wreck of the famous Civil War ironclad that rests below 240 feet of water in the Atlantic off Cape Hatteras, N.C. The site is designated a NOAA national marine sanctuary.

The turret and cannons recovery is the final phase of a multi-year project to recover key components from the Monitor before sea water corrodes the vessel beyond recognition.

"NOAA and its partners have developed a very sound plan for recovering the turret and its cannons," said John Broadwater, manager of NOAA's Monitor National Marine Sanctuary and chief scientist of the recovery operation. "NOAA is grateful for the opportunity to work with the fine team assembled this year. It will be our summer's work to recover this unique part of our nation's maritime heritage so it may be preserved for future generations."

This multi-disciplinary effort will consist of scientists, engineers, historians, conservators and divers, many who have participated in Monitor expeditions in the past. The operation is being conducted by NOAA, the Naval Sea Systems Command, Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit TWO, and The Mariners' Museum.

"The whole Monitor Expedition 2002 Team has been planning for this for more than six months. Now we can finally put all the planning and preparations into practice for one of the most exciting underwater missions a Navy diver could hope for. In addition to training over 150 Navy divers in deep ocean diving and recovery procedures, we also get the immense satisfaction of bringing a piece of our naval heritage back for everyone to enjoy," said Commander Bobbie Scholley, Commanding Officer, Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit TWO and officer in tactical command of Monitor Expedition 2002.

The turret recovery effort, known as Monitor Expedition 2002, is the most intricate and difficult of the Monitor recovery expeditions. The Monitor's world famous revolving gun turret, with its two large Dahlgren cannons inside, is estimated to weigh nearly 150 tons. To gain access to the Monitor's turret for excavation and recovery, a large portion of the ship's remaining hull structure must be removed. The deck area over the turret is covered with tons of debris, and the likelihood of finding significant artifacts in that debris is great.

A $6.5 million grant to NAVSEA from the Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program makes Monitor Expedition 2002 possible. NOAA also is providing $600,000 in funding. Diving and recovery operations will take place from the 300-foot derrick barge Wotan, owned and operated by Manson Gulf Industries, which is equipped with a 500-ton crane. The more than 100 Navy personnel will dive around the clock, seven days a week throughout the 45-day expedition. A remotely-operated vehicle will allow NOAA and Navy personnel to observe and direct on-site tasks.

Once recovered, the turret will be transported by barge to The Mariners' Museum in Newport News, Va.

"This summer, one of the great icons of Civil War technology will be delivered to The Mariners' Museum for conservation and public display," said John Hightower, museum CEO and president. "For generations, the Monitor's extraordinary revolving turret has been seen in books, paintings, prints, even playing cards, representing America's first remarkable steps toward the iron age at sea. Few ever thought that the original, long-lost gun turret itself would ever be located, much less recovered and placed on public view. It is an awe-inspiring moment for lovers of history, particularly Civil War and maritime history."

The turret will join the engine and other artifacts currently accessible to museum visitors who can watch the ongoing conservation process that could take between five and ten years. In 2007, The Mariners' Museum, in partnership with NOAA, will open the USS Monitor Center on Museum property, the primary repository for materials and exhibitions related to the historic ship.

Since the Monitor was discovered, numerous research expeditions have studied the wreck. A 1998 NOAA management plan shifted the agency's focus from studying ways to stabilize the ship's fragile remains, to recovering some of the larger and significant components of this historic vessel. In 1998, NOAA and the Navy recovered the ironclad's propeller. In 2001 the group recovered the Monitor's 3-ton steam engine, which is currently being conserved by The Mariners' Museum.

The Monitor was designated as the first national marine sanctuary in 1975. NOAA's National Marine Sanctuary Program conducts scientific research, monitoring, exploration, and educational programs in 13 sanctuaries of more than 18,000 miles of ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources. For more information on theMonitor Expedition, please visit the following Web sites: NOAA's Monitor Expedition 2002 Web site at, the NAVSEA Web site at, the Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit Two at or The Mariners' Museum Web site at

NOAA's National Ocean Service manages the National Marine Sanctuary Program, and is dedicated to exploring, understanding, conserving, and restoring the nation's coasts and oceans. NOAA Ocean Service balances environmental protection with economic prosperity in fulfilling its mission of promoting safe navigation, supporting coastal communities, sustaining coastal habitats and mitigating coastal hazards.

To learn more about NOAA Ocean Service, visit